Social Security is Not a Retirement Safety Net

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Recent strikes and protests in France at times brought the country to a standstill. The reason? The government under President Macron increased the retirement age from 62 to 64.

The U.S. had a similar wave of protest in 2011 when Speaker Paul Ryan suggested changing our retirement age from 67 to 69. Our protests took the form of ads showing a man, implied to be Ryan, dumping grandma out of a wheelchair over a cliff.

No wonder Social Security is referred to as a political “third rail,” after the third rail of an electric railroad that carries voltage high enough to kill anyone who touches it. For politicians, suggesting any threat to Social Security is a career-ending risk.

Yet Social Security has always been born from political rather than financial necessity. The initial retirement age was not based on life expectancy but rather on the political and social realities of the time.